On Corporate Inroads into Sustainability and Accountability


Guenter Rottenfusser headshot
Guenter Rottenfusser

Strategist, global social impact, and sustainability expert

Episode notes

This episode of Dreams with Deadlines is laser-focused on all things ESG.

Host Jenny Herald starts by inviting her guest, Guenter Rottenfusser, to brief us on the basics – defining the “E,” “S” and “G” of it all. As a social impact entrepreneur and Environmental, Social and Governance expert, Guenter is here to provide an inside look at the global business landscape and help answer the question: How do we design a more sustainable future?

What you will learn

  • Where ESG and CSR overlap in their mandates to develop better corporate citizens
  • The UN’s 17 Goals for Sustainable Development and how that’s going
  • The challenges associated with creating reliable, long-term metrics by which to track individual company efforts to reach carbon neutrality
  • The difference between — and examples of — carbon offsetting and insetting
  • Innovative technologies Guenter is involved with and what’s on his horizon
  • The episode wraps with some lively Quick Fire Questions that will leave you inspired to join Guenter in driving hard towards creating the environmental solutions we need.

Show notes

  • [02:20] Guenter brings us up to speed on his career trajectory, from academia (where he acquired advanced mathematical and analytical skills) to the Boston Consulting Group, where he was introduced to a steep learning curve across industry sectors.
  • [03:25] Defining the E, S and G of ESG, a framework for supporting Environmental, Social and Governance measures for corporate responsibility:
    • Provides a common language to discuss non-financial indicators and parameters.
    • Connects corporate impacts in a global context.
  • [06:50] While there is overlap, ESG and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) are not completely interchangeable.
    • CSR has traditionally been a somewhat vague, even random, corporate commitment to philanthropy, community engagement, stockholder expectations and compliance/risk mitigation.
    • ESG is the framework or vehicle through which to measure and quantify social impacts beyond financial metrics, the boardroom or day-to-day business.
  • [10:28] Guenter places ESG within the context of 17 Sustainable Development Goals defined by the UN, including challenges such as hunger, poverty, health, and economic development.
  • [13:00] Does ESG impact the bottom line? Guenter argues yes and that evidence suggests that environmental and social elements in particular pay off in terms of both overall corporate and global health.
  • [16:26] Challenges and Concerns:
    • What metrics can be put in place based on hard indicators such as CO2 emissions developed based on sector-relevant resources and practices.
    • Large accounting firms and regulatory control will also have a role to play.
  • [18:42] Affordability, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses, will be determined in large part by scaling of technology and automation in the coming years. 
  • [19:44] Impact measures and the fuzziness around defining them because of a lack of longitudinal tracking measures and the murkiness of long-term timelines. 
  • [22:17] Guenter’s thoughts about developing corporate solutions and plans for capturing impact measures in terms of political and scientific indicators:
    • Using a flexible framework for collecting data.
    • Implementing pro bono efforts to help environmental nonprofits.
  • [26:25] Guenter explains the difference between carbon offset and inset: Buy your way out versus build your way out? It’s nuanced!
  • [30:07] Guenter gets granular with specific examples of offsetting methods, relative levels of impact available through programs in place today as well as innovative new technologies under development to scale efforts to stabilize and sequester carbon.
  • [33:04] Guenter shares projects he’s excited about with Sinkco Labs, which is developing a carbon-neutral alternative protein source, as well as a new app in beta testing that will offer consumers a simple way to get an ongoing read of their carbon footprint based on travel, dining out and other lifestyle patterns.
  • [38:54] Quick Fire Questions for Guenter:
    • What Is Your Dream With A Deadline?  Helping all sectors – but most especially the corporate world – realize their pledges to be profitable as well as socially and environmentally responsible.
    • What do you appreciate about the teams you work with? The passion for common goals, excellence and pursuing a mission to make a difference.
    • What challenge have you overcome and how did you do it? By pivoting in the right way at the right point in time. It’s about stepping back to reassess, even if it means shifting your direction or strategy.
    • Advice for effective team-wide and company-wide goal setting? Focus on creating a shared vision that excites and enfranchises all stakeholders, which will lead to high levels of buy-in, satisfaction and success across the enterprise.
    • What’s top of mind for you these days? Moving forward with projects in progress in order to grow, grow, grow, scale, scale, scale and meet our global challenge.

Relevant links

About our guest:

Guenter Rottenfusser headshot
Guenter Rottenfusser

Strategist, global social impact, and sustainability expert

Guenter Rottenfusser is a strategist, global social impact and sustainability expert currently working with several CO2 reduction and removal start ups, most prominently Sinkco Labs and Compenshare. He has been named an EWOR fellow and previously consulted for the Boston Consulting Group.

Additional resources